As COVID-19 and the Omicron variant continue to spread, school districts across the country have faced quarantines and shutdowns. Littleton Public Schools, however, have remained open and in-person.
Principal Stacey Riendeau explains the Heritage staff have been instrumental in allowing Heritage to remain open.
“I would say close to 60% of our staff probably has experienced illness, but they’ve come in waves we’ve been able to manage,” she states. “Our teachers have been fantastic about picking up classes when we don’t have subs. We’ve been very lucky to not have to shut down because of those gaps.”
Nevertheless, large impacts have still been noticed within classrooms.
“I feel like the classroom setting, the atmosphere, just feels a lot different,” explains Ashleigh O., ’23 “It’s less personal than it used to be.”
“I think it’s crazy because in all my classes over half the class has been gone,” Ashleigh elaborates. “I’m surprised we’re not shut down yet.”
According to Riendeau, there were several days this year where over 90 students were out at one time. As of now, however, Riendeau believes that Heritage will not have to shut down in the near future.
“The question is always asked, ‘Are we going to go remote at any point?’ Right now that’s not happening,” she assures. “The only way we would is if we’re short staffed, and I really believe that our teachers have stepped up. I’m so proud of the work they’ve done to keep kids in school.”
Mrs. Amanda Hurley, assistant principal, also stresses the fact that mask guidelines and shutting down are ultimately left for Tri-County to determine.
“We are under the guidelines of Tri-County and Arapahoe County,” Hurley explains. “It’s not really a Heritage specific decision or even an LPS decision.”
A major challenge Heritage administrators have faced recently is balancing a wide variety of opinions and perspectives regarding COVID-19 guidelines.
“Just like anywhere in the nation, this has brought a lot of politics into play,” Riendeau says. “There have been a lot of differing opinions and trying to balance that in our community is hard. I think our goal in the community is just to listen and try to land on what our public health orders ask us to do.”
“Ultimately, our job is always about taking care of students and their well-being, and that looks different for different students,” agrees Hurley. “It’s difficult knowing that we’re not going to please anybody with any of the decisions we’re making, but we’re trying to do what’s best for all of our students.”
Despite the challenges from COVID, Riendeau and Hurley agree the Heritage community has only become more resilient.
“I think our kids have been very respectful. There are a lot of students who understand now that school isn’t a given, activities aren’t a given,” says Riendeau. “I would hope there are more kids who really feel like they understand the value of school, from a social standpoint and academic standpoint.”
“It’s been a major drain on a lot of students and their mental health,” explains Hurley, “but I’m seeing more opportunities to prove our resiliency and grow together. If we can get past the conflict and listen to each other, I think education will come out of this with more opportunities to be more collaborative.”